Child’s Right to Choose

child custody lawyer colmar paBy: Amy R. Stern, Esquire

People often ask at what age can a child choose which parent they want to live with. My answer is that it is not up to the child. However, under the PA child custody rules, the child’s “well-reasoned preference” is one of 16 factors a court must consider in ordering any form of custody.

Therefore, the child may speak with a judge in a custody case and tell the judge what their position is. In my experience, this is not always helpful or beneficial to the child or parents. Often, we see children tell a judge they love both parents and want to be with both of them. Even if a child prefers one parent over the other, their reasoning is sometimes suspect and based on which parent gives them more gifts, doesn’t make them do chores, takes them to Disneyland, etc.

It is also a very difficult position to put children in and can be upsetting and stressful to a child who is made to go into court and talk to a judge, not to mention having to choose between their parents. I’ve seen too many children get emotionally upset and cry when speaking to judges in these types of cases.

Therefore, when deciding whether a child should tell the judge their preference, it’s important to not only to consider their age, but the emotional effect it may have on the child. Ultimately, the focus is on the child’s best interests, which many parents often forget.

If you are contemplating divorce or have on-going child custody or child support issues, call me. I can be reached at 215-822-7575 or via email at We offer a free initial consultation.